Fall Maintenance Tips Can Protect You From the Unexpected

By Bill Primavera

How well I remember criticism once from someone that at first I took badly, but was later flattered by it.

The comment was, “He thinks he knows everything about everything, but he only knows a little about a lot of things.” 

I was initially surprised to hear this but considering that my critic was speaking in a political context and happens to be from a far different ideology than mine, I brushed off the comment with amusement.

Certainly, in terms of my role as a realtor for home and commercial sales as well as The Home Guru, the assessment is true, except for the fact that I would never want to pass myself off as a know-it-all. I fully accept and profess my limitations as an expert, especially in the field of home maintenance. The study is just too extensive for anyone to know everything about.

My one saving grace for a guru moniker may be that I know how to source information and service for those chores where I know I need help. That list could fill a book.

Today, I am happy to say that I live in a condo where all I must do is occasionally replace the filter of my HVAC system. But when I formerly lived in a six-bedroom antique colonial home, there was plenty of maintenance to worry about.

Whenever I needed advice, I would first go to my wife, Margaret, who is my chief adviser when looking for direction about how best to allocate my time.

“Gee, honey, how should I prioritize all the maintenance chores that should be done around the house before winter comes?” The answer: “Make a list.”

In my search I stumbled upon a list of maintenance tips suggested by Home Farm Insurance. I was bowled over by its thoroughness. It would seem to require a Mr. Fix-It master’s degree. Any mortal would break out in a sweat just pondering it. 

My suggestion would be to prioritize such a list according to what seems the most important to your situation. That is what I did in the list I include in this column.

Those priorities can change in an instant when the unexpected problem occurs, which happened shortly after Margaret and I had this discussion.

My wife was drying her hair with a blower at her dressing table and suddenly a whole circuit blew that had never blown before. I couldn’t fathom how that could have happened. I went downstairs and flipped the circuit breakers assigned to the bedroom, but nothing came back on. I knew that greater expertise than mine was needed.

After calling my electrician, he went to the basement and discovered a problem that I never could have expected would be on my fall maintenance list – my entire circuit breaker panel needed to be replaced. 

How could that be, I thought? It had been installed new less than 20 years before when I upgraded the amps to the house. Didn’t panels last longer than that? Not so, it seems. Inside the panel box, the wiring had started to rust from the dampness of the basement, and I was warned that this could present more problems if I didn’t install a new panel. 

So there went an unexpected, major expense, certainly a priority that could knock some of my other upgrade plans out of the picture.

But as I went down the list from Home Farm, I picked out some fall maintenance tips to prepare for the winter that seemed prudent and had little or no expense. They include:

  • * Inspect and clean dust from the covers of your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
  • * Clean the kitchen exhaust hood and air filter.
  • * Make sure the light bulbs in all fixtures are the right wattage.
  • * Replace all extension cords that have become brittle or worn.
  • * Check the roof for damage and all fascia and trim for deterioration.
  • * Check the shut-off valve at each plumbing fixture to make sure they function.
  • * Clean the clothes dryer duct, damper and space under the dryer.
  • * Replace or clean the furnace filter.
  • * Have your water heater checked.
  • * Make sure you have a multipurpose fire extinguisher handy.
  • * Review your fire evacuation plan with your family.
  • * Consider installing a lightning protection system for your home.
  • * Consider protecting your appliances from power surges.
  • * Have a professional HVAC contractor inspect and maintain your system as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • * Perhaps most important, disconnect your garden hose from the spigot. Left connected, water inside can freeze, leading to frozen pipes, which I’ve seen explode and ruin properties.

These tips should keep you busy and safer in your home for the winter and throughout the year.

Bill Primavera is a realtor associated with William Raveis Real Estate and founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester (www.PrimaveraPR.com), specializing in lifestyles, real estate and development. His real estate site is www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com and his blog is www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru and his team to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.